3 Tips for Practicing Forgiveness

~ Blog post by Autumn Cockrell ~

Have you ever wondered what forgiveness is and what it looks like for the Christain?

Forgiveness is an important characteristic of the Christian life. We are taught to forgive one another as God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). Easy enough, right? Not at all. In most situations, we think if we ask for forgiveness, we will receive forgiveness. We think if we forgive, that’s it, we have forgiven that person. In reality, forgiveness is a muscle we must ‘exercise’ every day of our Christian life.
But, what do we do when forgiveness is not easy? What do you do when you have forgiveness but you still feel the strong emotions of bitterness or anger against that person? Or if someone refuses to forgive you?
Today I wanted to share some practical ways to keep forgiveness in mind when we are faced with situations where forgiveness is easier said than done.

1. Forgive Them – Over and Over and Over Again

In the book of Matthew, Peter asked the Lord how many times he should forgive a brother who has sinned against him. Jesus says, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). Basically, God is saying that we need to be forgiving a person over and over again. In my younger years, I thought verbally forgiving someone was the ‘done deal’ and I didn’t have to forgive again. However, I can recall a situation in my life where I outwardly forgave them even while truly not forgiving them in my heart.
So, what do you do? Jesus says we are to forgive them seventy-seven times! If you have already forgiven them verbally, pray every day to forgive them in your heart. This is key. Praying for God to soften your heart against someone is the only way to forgive someone in your heart. Without Him, we would be unable to forgive! Cry out to Him, pray for a softer heart toward that person, and while it may feel like nothing is happening, stay diligent and press on in these prays.
“Lord, please soften my heart. Let me be able to forgive ____. Lord, I do forgive him/her/them. Amen.”
I’ve had a rough past and for so many years it seemed impossible to forgive those who hurt me. But, God! By His grace alone, He has softened my heart and I can now look back on my past knowing I have forgiven those people just as God has forgiven me.

2. Make a Point to Ask for Forgiveness

Forgiveness and asking for forgiveness go hand-in-hand. While we must actively forgive those who have sinned against us, we must also make it a habit of asking for forgiveness – even over the smallest things! This was something my husband and I made a habit of when we first got married. I grew up in a household that did not practice this so when my husband would ask for forgiveness, I got uncomfortable because I did not know how to respond. I often delayed in asking for forgiveness because I was not used to asking and I would get a negative response when I did.
Over time, I got so used to asking for forgiveness because I was exercising that forgiveness ‘muscle’. Like any physical muscle we try and train, it’s hard at first. We are weak, we can’t lift the heavyweights, we can’t do that many pushups or sit-ups, and we can’t even fathom doing a pull-up. But, does that mean we give up? No! We continue to train and as we become stronger. It is the same with asking for forgiveness.
The more we ask for forgiveness, the more we exercise that muscle, and the more we learn about humility.
There is a big difference between saying “I’m sorry” and asking “Would you please forgive me?” Asking for forgiveness is humiliating and asking teaches us a lot about that particular fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We can all say “I’m sorry” with ease, but do we always go through the humiliating experience of asking for forgiveness?

3. Pray for Those Who Won’t Forgive

We’ve talked a lot about forgiving and receiving forgiveness. Lastly, I want to talk about what we ought to do when someone won’t accept our apology and refuses to forgive us?
I’ve been in that exact position, maybe you have too. I had gotten in an argument with someone and after cooling down, I approached them and asked for forgiveness. The person refused my apology – and never changed their response. I’ll be honest, the sinner inside me wanted to start yelling at them and revoke my request for forgiveness. Who wouldn’t want to respond in that way! It’s discouraging to come to someone, exercising humility and forgiveness, only have someone not accept.
This is where the two steps from above come back into play. If you already asked them for forgiveness, you might have to forgive them over and over again, and also add in the second part; pray for them. Pray that God would soften their hearts. Even if they never come to you and ask for forgiveness, you can continue to pray that God would soften them and bring them healing. During my short time on this earth, I’ve found often that someone who won’t forgive is broken and in need of the Lord’s healing hands.
Forgiveness is a difficult muscle to work and a very hard task to complete well. It takes humility, practice, and prayer for us to stay strong and truly embrace this type of forgiveness that God calls us to. I hope these practical tips about how to forgive will encourage your heart and bless you as you go about your life.  When God asks us to forgive, we can rest assured that He will give us everything we need to follow through and choose the path of forgiveness and healing.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32


~Blog post by Autumn Cockrell

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